A number of federal departments and independent agencies released revised information on the likely impacts of budget sequestration at the request of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski. Many agencies face cuts that would be especially damaging for research and development (R&D), as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
Sequestration would have drastic impacts on the National Science Foundation, hurting vital investments in basic research and cutting-edge technological development, and jeopardizing STEM education. It would require a reduction of roughly 1,000 research grants, directly impacting nearly 12,000 people, including professors, graduate students, undergraduates, K-12 teachers and students, and technicians.
Funding cuts at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science would curtail operations at numerous facilities, potentially impacting more than 25,000 researchers and personnel. It would also cause schedule delays and increased construction costs. Finally, sequestration would result in reduced research grants, affecting scientists around the country.
R&D at the Environmental Protection Agency would be diminished as a consequence of sequestration, forcing the agency “to make cuts we believe will directly undercut our congressionally-mandated mission of ensuring Americans have clean air, clean water and clean land,” according to a statement from the agency.
Agricultural research would be cut by more than 100 grants, disrupting progress in research on water, bioenergy production, animal and plant disease, and other topics. The Natural Resources Conservation Service would additionally curtail technical and financial assistance to approximately 11,000 landowners and producers for environmental conservation efforts.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would also see significant impacts. Up to 2,600 NOAA employees would have to be furloughed and approximately 2,700 vacant positions would not be filled. Moreover, 1,400 contractors would be laid off.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration would have to cut 10 percent to 15 percent of the budget for new Explorer and Earth Venture Class missions, and reduce by approximately 5 percent new awards supporting jobs at universities, businesses, and other research entities.
The Department of Education would face tough decisions as a result of funding cuts. Approximately 80 percent of school districts would reportedly not be able to make up the losses from sequestration, putting at risk both student progress and teachers’ jobs. “I can assure you that our economic competitors are increasing, not decreasing, their investments in education, and we can ill afford to fall behind as a consequence of the indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts that would be required by sequestration,” stated Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a letter to Chairwoman Mikulski.
At the 14 February 2013 Senate Appropriations hearing on “The Impacts of Sequestration,” Chairwoman Mikulski summarized her thoughts on sequestration: “I think it’s bad economic policy, I think it’s bad governance policy, and I really don’t like it.”